Monday, March 03, 2008

Future Generations, Parental Molding, and Online Dating

I just finished my psych rotation in the ED. This experience, my current residency, and a relationship which ended a few months ago have led me to think about growing up and who I am as an adult.

Invariably this path of thinking leads back to how one was raised, and despite my mother sending me the book which she used to raise me, something called "Whole Child, Whole Parent", by Polly Berends, I still haven't worked out all the twists and turns of my own childhood.

The role of parents in my life today intrigues me. As I thought about my generation, and the impact of generational conflict, I did some googling. I came across an interesting set of authors- Howe and Strauss, who write about generational patterns and archetypes. As I define myself and who it is and what it is that I want, I thought about what I would like my children to be like, and wondered what I would impart to them.

As a 33 year old, I consider myself part of Generation X, my parents were Baby Boomers, and my grandparents part of the Greatest Generation, neither of which dated/had families in any way based on a set of principles or ideas, but merely formed marriages and children based on either the fact that they were pregnant (Greatest Generation), or the fact that they thought it was the right thing to do (Baby Boomers).

The generation now in early adulthood, at least in NYC, is what I like to call the Hipster Generation, raised by parents who grew up in the chaos of the fully developed swinging 70's, early 80's, drugs, the economic booms and recessions of the 80's, the cold war... They adopt the clothes of the swinging 70's, the cultural trends, yet seem apathetic and seem to want to make every artistic measure into an economic success, particularly the internet. Just as their parents experimented with drugs, they experiment with the internet.

They have a sentient knowledge of time before the internet, in other words they were born sometime after 1980 and before 1995, which is the approximate time between the earliest time the "internet" became part of common knowledge, and after the earliest generation X'ers were born.

The new Modern generation succeeds the Hipsters.. and it will be interesting to see what a generation raised by Generation X will look like.

Dubbed the "Quiet Generation" by Friedman , or the "Internet Generation" by Strauss and Howe, some place all children who were alive during the rise of the internet into this group, but I would argue that for the generation to be fully called the internet generation, they cannot have a sentient existence prior to it's creation. Therefore, the Internet generation must be those whose first words and activities were recorded in the internet age, those children who as babies heard their parents use the word "download", or "I-pod", or "PDF", or "email".

You know who these children are. You have read your married friends blog posts about their development in the womb, seen their cute baby pictures in mass emails.

These modern children will be raised by parents and grandparents who were born after humans had been to the moon (1969), birth control pill (1960), commercial jet travel (Boeing 707/DC-8-1961), the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), the idealism of JFK (ask not what your country can do for you speech-1961), the civil rights era(I Have a Dream Speech 1963), after the conclusion of Vietnam (1959-1975), the rise of HIV/AIDS(1981), MTV (1981), PCR (1983), Chernobyl (1986), the fall of Eastern Europe and the end of the Cold War(1989), mobile phones (GSM standard 1991), reality TV (1991-MTV-Real World), forensic science/OJ Simpson trial(1995), human genome sequence(2001).

Whereas previous generations feared poverty, war, or discrimination, the new Modern Generation was born into a world around the time of a cataclysmic terrorist attack(2001- World Trade Center), and the fears of the cold war/nuclear war have been replaced by rogue terrorist fears such as the Unabomber 1978-1995, Iran Hostage Crisis (1979), Oklahoma City Bombings (1995), Washington Sniper (2002), and school shootings at Cleveland Elementary- "I hate Mondays-Boomtown Rats"- (1979) Columbine (1999), and Virginia Tech (2007), others.

As a Generation X'er, I lived through these events or heard about them from my parents. I have pretty much renounced the role of any external force in my life such as religion or parental wishes to make decisions about A. whether to start a family, and B. what kind of a family life I want, leaving the only significant deciding factor to be my wishes and those of my future spouse.

As I reflect about what I want in an ideal family and how I would raise my children in this modern world, I would hope that my family would be social, enjoying a good connection to the wider community, that they act according to ethical principles and in the interests of being good people, participate in the arts, and have access to a good education and a stable home environment, with access to green outdoors spaces and a safe community. As they grow up, I would hope that my children speak at least one other language and have the opportunity to live in another country and be immersed in another culture.

What will today's children will be like in the future, particularly those children born after 1995 who are now between 0-13? These children, born during the height of the internet revolution, during the dot com boom, have never known a non-technological time, and their parents are arguably the most technology dependent parental group ever.

In fact, it is likely that their parents met using the internet, perhaps arranging a date via either online dating agencies such as, e-harmony, or jdate, or using various other online enabled communities- myspace/facebook/instant messenger/speed dating.

How interesting that we have come to this point, in which the characteristics of future families, future humans, could be determined by what happens on a date set up on the internet? And say, for example, that due to the increased options available in finding a mate, that one is able to find the theoretically "PERFECT" mate for them. Does that translate into a better family life, or a better chance for a happy lasting marriage? Or is the internet only useful in initially connecting people who could potentially be good life partners?

It will be interesting to see how the next generation turns out. It will be one of the first generations whose parents met using the internet- in which parents truly made a decision about each other, and their desire to design a family to their liking, the ability to choose partners from a wide range of society, and the ability to control when and where to have children. Perhaps this more reasoned mating will lead to a correction of the apparent problems of the technology age? Or perhaps this will never solve the most important question- toilet seat up or down?

1 comment:

Anittah N. Patrick said...